‘What am I supposed to do?’: Pandora Ave., Irving Park sweeps displace homeless camper

'What am I supposed to do?': Pandora Ave., Irving Park sweeps displace homeless camper

Irving Park camper Jack Davis shakes out his wet tent. It’s his routine after a morning visit by Victoria bylaw officers.

The Irving Park campers have to take down their tents by 7 a.m., and Davis says getting up and packing all his belongings is tough.

“It’s pouring rain. They said we had 15 minutes to pack up,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

“So instead of being able to do things nicely, you’re pushing stuff around in the rain. Your stuff is getting soaked. I’ll probably go to bed tonight with wet sleeping beds.”

While he’s able to get reorganized, Irving Park, located at 250 Menzies St. in James Bay, will have one less camper.

Davis says he watched as bylaw officers took away the tent and belongings of his friend, Neil Dwier.

“By the time they got to Neil’s tent, Neil was just pulling up on his bicycle. And they said because he wasn’t in the tent when they arrived at the tent, he was on his bike, that gave them them the ability to cordon off his tent,” Davis said.

READ PREVIOUS: ‘Kicked us off the block’: Pandora Ave. sweep impacts those living in tents

Now without a tent, Dwier is back on Pandora Avenue and said bylaw officers took everything.

“My bed, my sleeping bag, my clothes, my laptop,” Dwier said.

He pitched his tent in James Bay after the May 16 sweep of the encampment on Pandora. But on Monday night, he returned to Pandora.

“I ended up having a couple of seizures. And then after that, I spent the night here because my friend didn’t want me to be alone,” Dwier said.

But now his tent and all his belongings, which he had left in Irving Park, are gone.

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Our Place Society CEO Julian Daly said many people were displaced during the recent sweep, and having to move twice in 12 days is very difficult.

“Two displacements in the course of two weeks, which is really disruptive. And quite traumatizing for folks,” Daly said.

On Tuesday morning, in the 900-block of Pandora, most of the tents and people are back one week after that major sweep off the block.

Daly said the City of Victoria still has not fully explained why the May 16 clean-up occurred on Pandora.

“We haven’t had what I’d call a full explanation, but I know that the bylaw has reached out to us and my colleagues. And we’re actually meeting this afternoon with bylaw,” Daly said.

“So we can ensure we don’t have a repetition of what happened. I think there is recognition by the city that there are some very important lessons to be learned from this.”

‘Not a crime to be homeless,’ says Dwier

With only the clothes on his back and displaced twice in 12 days, Dwier has a message for the city.

“It’s not a crime to be homeless. I don’t want to be in a tent down here. But when there is nowhere to go, what am I supposed to do?” he said.

Dwier says he doesn’t know where he’ll sleep tonight or what he’ll sleep in.

The City of Victoria responded with a statement to CHEK News’ request for an interview.

When asked what guidelines and policies bylaw follow when deciding what to impound or throw away, or what unhoused people are allowed to keep, the city says bylaw officers do their best not to impound belongings by seeking voluntary compliance.

The city says it follows the Administration of Property in City Custody bylaw.

“When this is not offered, we have to sort items. Officers are obviously required to work safely, and unfortunately, there are regularly circumstances where hazards exist (needles, feces, bodily fluids, drugs and drug paraphernalia, etc.) that mean we cannot impound a structure or its contents,” reads the statement.

“There are some items that cannot be impounded. We do not impound bulky items such as sofas, wooden pallets, wardrobes, filing cabinets, or other large items unlawfully placed in public spaces. We also do not impound rubbish.”

The city says people are allowed to remove their own items when it’s safe to do so.

“We endeavour to return all items that are life-supporting. As per the bylaw, these are considered such things as a tent, sleeping bag, medication, medical device, cell phone, personal identification, waterproof or winter apparel,” reads the statement.

The city adds that it does not have a policy regarding what people sheltering in parks should do with their belongings between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

“The best advice that our bylaw officers can offer is that people who need temporary overnight shelter in lawful locations in City parks, keep the property they have with them to what they can pack up each day and be mobile with to allow compliance with the community standards set out in the Parks Regulation Bylaw,” it added.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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